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Lending a hand when needed

The pandemic and resultant efforts to curb the spread of the virus was a hardship for all, some much more than others. Likewise, many people have risen to the occasion in helping those most in need.

Among those responding was a group dubbed the 519 Community Collective, which started out last year as an online forum for people to chat and share their experiences, fears, trials and tribulations throughout the pandemic. The group has since grown into a network of some 5,000 members working to better the lives of others.

Among their ranks is Elmira’s Rick Weber, who is currently taking part in the group’s latest initiative, the New Beginnings program, which works to collect furniture and other household items.

Weber became aware of the group last year while he and his son were undertaking their own initiative of building birdhouses and donating the proceeds to charity groups and community organizations. They ended up donating some of the proceeds to the collective. From there, he began to get involved directly in its projects.

“I became aware of it back in March, when my son and I were doing the birdhouses. So, we donated some funds to the group. And then from there, I kind of started getting involved a little bit myself, as far as helping them move things around, because I have a pickup truck and I had access to a trailer. So, I was helping with moving things around for them, and that sort of thing,” said Weber.

He says it was in the fall when the group undertook the New Beginnings program, which aims to help those less fortunate by focusing on those leaving the shelter system or getting their first home. That work has brought him into contact with a range of people in the region.

“One of the stories that I’ll probably never forget is bumping into a young lady, her information was kind of forwarded to us from a family friend. And this young lady is living with her son in subsidized housing, and had been there for four months with no furniture at all. She and her son sleeping together on a twin mattress, and that was the only furniture in the place: nothing in the living room, no dining table, no anything. And we were able to go in and supply her with a queen-sized bed for herself, dining tables and chairs for the living room, that sort of thing. So, it’s those sorts of situations that people wouldn’t really have any idea that are happening,” said Weber.

To date, the group has helped between 30 and 40 people as they gained the stability after their needs were fulfilled.

Items Weber says they run through quite quickly, and therefore need the most, include small dining sets, double mattresses, box springs and beds. He says compact furniture and storage is what they need as well, asking for dressers, pantries, and bookshelves.

For those who want to help and donate to the cause – or ask for help from the group – they can be reached by email at 519communitycollective@gmail.com or through their Facebook page.

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